Hot Summer Reads for ESL Teachers

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer is upon us and the sun is out! If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, it might be chilly and cold. Either way, it’s a great time of year to lay out by the pool or curl up by the fire with a good book. In their special report for the Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, Lily Wong-Fillmore and Catherine Snow (2000) detailed “What Teachers Need to Know about Language”. They outlined many of the different roles that teachers assume when they work with language learners: communicator, evaluator, educator, agent of socialization, and one I consider extremely important but sometimes overlooked—educated human being.

At times, we as teachers can be so focused on methodology, assessment, school requirements, and so on, that we do not have free time to consider what is really at the center of our teaching practice—the hearts and minds of our students, and the relationships we are able to create with them. That said, instead of picking up another “How To” teaching book this summer or winter, you might consider some of these highly readable books that highlight English learners’ life experiences as they navigate new school systems and/or learn a new language and culture. Hopefully, these texts and others can help you reflect on how you address some of these experiences in your classroom, and contribute to your important teaching role as an educated citizen of the world. Feel free to add your own book suggestions on related topics in the comments—I’d love to add books from around the globe to this list!

Stories of Immigration and Migration

New Kids in Town: Oral Histories of Immigtant Teens, by Janet Bode

The Inner World of the Immigrant Child, by Cristina Igoa

The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child, by Francisco Jimenez

Stories of the Latino Experience

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay, by Julia Alvarez

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, by Richard Rodriguez

Pocho, by José Antonio Villarreal

Stories of the Asian Experience

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, by Bette Bao Lord

“My Trouble Is My English”: Asian Students and the American Dream, by Danling Fu

Stories of Refugees

Mogadishu on the Mississippi: Language, Racialized Identity, and Education in a New Land, by Martha Bigelow

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Anne Fadiman

from TESOL Blog


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